Dr Rampradeep's 1967 Karmann Ghia may not be the fastest sports car from its era, but it is definitely one of the most visually arresting machines to roll out from Volkswagen

German automobile manufacturer, Volkswagen's decision to spruce up its image resulted in the Karmann Ghia. Although its bestseller, the Beetle exhibited a high output-to-input ratio, with an efficient engine that scrimped on gas and a price tag that explained the marque's name (`Volkswagen' means `people's car'), VW fell short of the expectations of a world that had recovered from the aftermaths of a gruesome war. With wartime austerity well behind them, people were once again dipping in the bubble bath of extravagance and this only meant that opulence was not scorned upon, and if accompanied by good taste, it was desirable in big measure. VW thought coach building company Karmann alone could help it project a new, trendy character to the public. Karmann offered to build a sports car that would suggest taste, ease and wealth. The coach maker turned to a design by Italian carozzeria, Ghia. The sketch, lying unused in a file, needed just the minimum of alterations before execution. Thanks to this collaboration, the Volkswagen Karmann Ghia (KG) was born in 1955. This car veered away from VW's car-for-the-common-man goal because of the intensive labour involved in making its stylish, handcrafted body. This sports car remained in production till 1974 and came out in two forms - a two-door coupe and a convertible. During this period, 4,45,300 (give or take a few) Ghias were sold. Volkswagen introduced two other models - the more expensive and luxurious Karmann Ghia Type 34 (1962-69) and a touring coupe, the Karmann Ghia TC (1970-76). As sports cars go, a KG is a slow machine. Because the Beetle's conservative 36hp engine was fitted into the first batch of KGs. Subsequent KGs received the benefits of research and improvement and they were blessed with a much more impressive 1.5 litre, flat-four engine. However, technical improvements did not mean the KG morphed into one of the fastest cars of its era. Ask Dr Rampradeep, who owns a late-1960s, left-hand drive version (It must be a 1967 model because of its wooden dashboard, although the book puts it a year older). "Its top speed is 78 mph, according to a sales brochure," he says.The doctor's car reflects the redesigning that took place in the 1960s. "There is more space between what are called the nostril grilles than there was on KGs made between 1955 and 1959. And the headlights are slightly higher and positioned away from the fenders - the 1955-59 cars, therefore called `lowlights' are in greater demand by collectors worldwide." And though Dr Rampradeep admits he once owned one such example, he just couldn't get around to restoring it. But today, his `non-lowlight' KG is definitely the highlight of his life.PRINCE FREDERICK

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